MANATEE -- The Manatee County School Board plans to expand voluntary pre-kindergarten programs and bring in data teams to analyze student performance at all grade levels, kindergarten through high school.
The school board met at a special workshop and a regular meeting Tuesday to discuss the changes.
Superintendent Rick Mills said the district will use a myriad of data, including assessments, attendance and drop-out rates, to evaluate the performance of Manatee County schools on a more regular basis.
"We will be teaching people on a team how to pull and manipulate data and package and present it," Mills said.
Mills said school data teams will not mean additional testing, but will help teachers, principals, and administrative staff evaluate school performance down to the level of individual students. It may be used to determine classroom curriculum.
"We want to find where our challenges are," Mills said. "But leadership teams should be looking at data, not compiling it. We want to get down to a certain level of visibility."
Staff member teams at each school will meet by grade level and content to analyze student performance and discuss whether they need to intervene to keep them on track for graduation.
"The approach to improving and increasing performance in schools is around building leadership capacity around instruction and teaching," Mills said.
Robert Johnson, district director of planning and management, said data teams will be trained by the district, which was recently nationally certified.
"We want to make sure principals and classroom teachers have data to inform teaching," Johnson said.
Johnson said using student data should guide teachers by allowing them to see what percentage of the class is struggling, but will not dictate how they teach.
"We are not trying to take away from schools, but have a common language to drive teaching and learning," Johnson said.
Silvana Ianinska, school district coordinator of research and evaluation, will lead the training this July. The training, which begins after the close of this fiscal year, will cost the district $30,000.
It includes training stipends for 169 teachers and 91 principals and school administrators, and materials needed to start the data teams. Training will run through July and August.
Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instructional services, said the district is expanding voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.
Greene said the school district has more than 300 retained third-graders this year, with 61 percent from Title I schools.
"(Voluntary pre-kindergarten) benefits the economically disadvantaged," Greene said. "Long-term effects of VPK include improved emotional and social development, less grade repetition and increased graduation rates."
Greene said the district is starting a new program at Rogers Garden Elementary School for students whose school's VPK program is closed.
Daughtrey, Moody and Samoset elementary schools no longer have room in their pre-kindergarten programs.
"There will still be selection criteria for Title I students, as we have more students than dollars," Greene said. "But it is the first step to expanding the programs."
Voluntary pre-kindergarten choice opens March 3.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.